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Iranian envoy lambasts U.S. over plane incident

NEW YORK -- Iran's ambassador to the United Nations called the downing by U.S. naval forces of an Iranian passenger jet a premeditated 'act of terrorism' and warned the United States to expect retaliation.

Ambassador Mahammad Jafar Mahallati ridiculed the U.S. government's claim that seamen on the American warship Vincennes shot down the civilian plane after mistaking it for an Iranian jet fighter when it strayed from commercial air routes.

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In the worst incident of its kind in aviation history, the Iran Air plane with 290 people aboard was blown out of the sky over the gulf Sunday by missile fire from an American warship engaged in renewed sea battles with Iran. All 290 passengers were feared dead.

'This incident definitely was premeditated, as the airplane was not out of international and routine (air) corridors,' Mahallati said in an interview broadcast on New York television station WPIX. 'I have reports from Tehran that this plane was seen (flying) by people (on an Iranian-controlled island) ... adjacent to the Hormuz Straits.'

He added, 'When it was seen, then, how can the American (warship) have mistaken it for a jet fighter or anything else?'

Mahallati called the downing of the jet an 'inhuman and abominable attack against civilians.'

'When you yourself initiate an act of terrorism in the Persian Gulf, you should expect anything,' he said.

Asked whether Iran will retaliate against U.S. targets with acts of terrorism, Mahallati responded: 'Anything can happen. We have shown our policy of self-restraint in the Persian Gulf. But then we (will) use any means and any measures in our hands to retaliate (for) this very inhuman act by the United States.'

Mahallati also hinted that the nine Americans being held in Lebanon among 16 foreign hostages, some by pro-Iranian groups, may be in increased jeopardy because of the incident.

'This inhuman and abominable attack against civilians will definitely touch the hearts of all our friends around the world,' he said. 'Therefore you might receive some hostile attacks from our friends around the world.'

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